The Research Process
Ten Woodland Trust Scotland volunteers took to The Old Oak Wood to complete the marathon mission. Over the course of 14 recording days, the volunteers had to measure, photograph and log exact GPS locations of these heritage trees.
Details of the trees are to be included on the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory which maps the oldest and most important trees in the UK.
The work was overseen by Scotland’s lead ancient tree verifiers Keith Knight and Clair McFarlan.
More than 500 trees were recorded, nearly all of them stunning and characterful pedunculate oaks. 100 were deemed ancient, 300 veteran and 100 notable.
Many of the trees may be descended from a single giant called “The Michael” and are thought to have been planted centuries ago to funnel deer towards aristocratic hunters.
‘Deer would be driven into the strip of land where the North and South Esk rivers converge. Trees planted along the edge would block their escape.’
The oldest and biggest oak on within Dalkeith Country Park is known as “The Michael” which is probably a corruption of the Scots word “meikle” meaning big – although some also link the oak to the 16th Century sailing ship The Michael which was the largest vessel afloat at the time.
The Michael oak would have already been an imposing tree at the time The Michael ship was put to sea from Newhaven in the 1500s. The Michael oak has multiple stems and may be the result of more than one sapling being planted together.
It has a remarkable girth of 10.3m at 0.8m up the trunk and could be up to 1000 years old.
Ross Mason | Park Manager
‘I have to give credit to all the Woodland Trust Volunteers who kept coming back to help tackle the mammoth task of documenting all these trees over the months,’ he said.
‘On the plus side it is always nice to spend the day in the woods with people who all have a genuine passion for these trees and nature in general.’
Visit the Heritage Tree Hotspot
The Dalkeith oaks were once difficult for casual visitors to find, but since 2016 there has been a 2.4km waymarked trail taking in many of the trees.
According to Park Manager Ross Mason the Old Wood purple trail is amongst the most popular walks with visitors.
The Old Oak Wood Trail follows along the River Esk as well as taking you through the Old Oak Wood. Please note when planning your visit, the Old Oak Wood does partially close over winter to allow for the protection of these precious trees.